The Last Days of Disco (1998)

Comedy, Drama, Music
Chloë Sevigny, Kate Beckinsale, Chris Eigeman, Mackenzie Astin
Story of two female Manhattan book editors fresh out of college, both finding love and themselves while frequenting the local disco.
  • 04 Sep 1998 Released:
  • 08 Dec 1998 DVD Release:
  • N/A Box office:
  • Whit Stillman Writer:
  • Whit Stillman Director:
  • N/A Website:
the dialogue is fresh and chances are you'll be grinning from here to Bolivia when the "Love Train" rolls through the subway at the end.5/10

`You have no idea what men think about women's breasts,' womaniser Des McGrath (Christopher Eigeman) pleads. No, not a rehash of Boogie Nights, but the third instalment, following Metropolitan and Barcelona, of Whitman's `yuppie' odyssey.

This New York yarn centres on publishing assistants Charlotte (flawless snotty American accent by Kate Beckinsale) and her best friend/biggest rival Alice (Chloe Sevigny). Bitchy Charlotte - `In physical terms, I'm cuter than you, but you're much nicer than I am,' - and Alice fall in with a parade of self-absorbed fellows in pullovers and drab ties. The `verbal' action between this set of intellectual folk takes place at a ludicrous dance palace in the very early 80s, with the `disco movement' decaying and Reagan's soul-devouring materialism taking hold.

In the main these are disagreeable people, but as much as you urge yourself to loathe them, you can't quite do it. Whitman's wildly self-indulgent and witty script (`Do you think the neurological effects of caffeine are similar to that of cocaine?') makes them impossible to ignore and eventually their awfulness becomes disturbingly compelling. A bit like Friends, only without dumb Joey and flaky Phoebe.

Although, aesthetically and visually Whitman's film doesn't quite ring true – clothing looks too 90s and they'd never be able to talk so much in a club – the dialogue is fresh and chances are you'll be grinning from here to Bolivia when the "Love Train" rolls through the subway at the end.

- Ben Walsh
Oh, to be Young8/10

"The Last Days of Disco" follows a group of newly minted adults in the New York of the early 1980s. They're affluent, and recent products of Ivy League educations but they really don't have much of a clue as to what adulthood is all about. They're groping, but they're not sure for what. They all have jobs, but their lives revolve around a posh disco where they mate, mingle, and talk. There's not much of a plot; "The Last Days of Disco" is mostly a series of conversions. But the conversions are wonderful. Whit Stillman's dialogue is a delight; he nails what its like during those first years of adulthood when the life of the group is replaced by a mature individuality. The ensemble cast is wonderful to watch, not overplaying their characters. I recommend this movie very highly
There's something sexy about Scrooge McDuck.9/10
Like his first film, Metropolitan, Whit Stillman's The Last Days of Disco is about young, white kids from an upper middle-class background with a talent for witty repartee and intelligent conversation. More importantly, like Metropolitan, Last Days is also about group dynamic in the late 20th century. In other words, this engaging, and entertaining, film is an anthropological study of a certain subtype of human-being: WASPy disco dancers from the early 1980s.

As such, it should be reprehensible, right? I mean, didn't American Psycho set us straight on yuppie-dom? Well, evidently not, because Last Days of Disco is a wonderful achievement for a number of reasons.

First, there is the satire. Yes, the film likes its characters, but it is not above acknowledging their inadequacies. No one is entirely likable nor is anyone a clear cut bad guy. They're all vaguely reminiscent of college-educated adults in their early 20s: smart and funny but still occasionally mean and prone to bouts of foolish behavior. They're not great people but you can't hate them.

Second, there's the narrative style itself. It focuses, more or less, on Charlotte and Alice but involves their friends, acquaintances, and lovers as well. In doing this, characters will show up unexpectedly (like Charlotte and Alice's roommate) and disappear just as quickly. I like movies that acknowledge that they're concerned with a certain number of characters and regard everyone else as incidental. Minor characters in a film need not remain static. They can and should change from time to time, for such is life.

Third, Last Days of Disco is a paean to that danceable sound. For all the truck disco has been given over the years, it really was a remarkable period of music. Yes, there was a lot of garbage--as there is with any musical movement--but the amount of innovation that took place during the years of 1976-1980 is impressive. We continue to feel the effects of disco and are beginning to accept it as a viable musical outlet. One of the nice points made subtly by Last Days is that, in a sense, discotheques were Utopian communities at night where the Upper East Side WASPS danced next to (gasp!) blacks and gay men! The climate of the discos was accepting of people of all colors and sexual orientations. It's nice to have a film display this belief and show the disco movement its due credit.

As much as I love Last Days of Disco, I think it is nevertheless an acquired taste. The dialogue, which I find scintillating, grates on the ears of others. Like the films of Wes Anderson, Whit Stillman's movies are a little precious. I like them; not everyone does. If you like interesting, though arch, dialogue and well-constructed characters, I suggest this fantastic film to you.
Wonderful and sardonic view of yuppie/disco life8/10

Another winner from Whit Stillman! This is a very clever, well-written film in the Eric Bogosian or Hal Hartley style of a play for the screen. This film really does feel like theater in many ways, especially the funny and clever, tightly written dialogue.

Superb performance by almost the entire cast (the one exception being McKenzie Astin, who was fairly awful, but was barely onscreen so it was shrugable), raised the film to a level above its potential. Kate Beckinsale was the perfect bitch, so annoying that I wanted to pull her out of the screen and shake her repeatedly;) Christopher Eigeman nearly stole the show as Des, he played the character perfectly, his voice and tone always on edge, the defensiveness and womanizing, the stories he told, all a brilliant package. But Chloe Sevigny more than held her own, with her best performance that I've ever seen...everything from her line release to her body language stuck out; she became Alice.

This film is a definite must see...a great soundtrack, great sets, brilliant writing and better acting. It's a bit long, some scenes feel unnecessary, and at times he seems to be over-hammering his point, but Stillman has still provided us with a near-masterpiece, 8/1.
Clubs were not as loud then as they are now7/10

Several people have commented that the conversations in the club would have been impossible due to the loud disco music. I was a regular bar goer in the 1970s and 80s and though some rock and roll bars were deafening, most dance clubs were not as "loud" as they are today. Conversation was a possibility back then believe it or not. I think that is one retro idea that should be revived.

As for the rest of the film, I liked it. I did not think all of the elements worked however. For example, I would have liked to have seen more proof that disco was on its way out. Having guys walk around in shirts that proclaimed "Disco Sucks" and footage of a "death to disco" rally at a baseball game between the Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox were both evident in 1979 when that game was played. I watched that game. Incidentally, the Tigers won by forfeit as the Chicago field became a disaster area. I would have liked to have heard more of the change in music. We did hear some Blondie, but this film was supposed to take place in the early 80s. I think the song "Bette Davis Eyes" would have been a good choice.

If you are looking for a celebration of Disco, this film isn't it. It does have some realistic portrayals of people who might have been involved in the scene. I watched the film because I disliked the whole disco scene and thought that a film showing it dying may be interesting and it did not disappoint me. If you are looking for a plot, this film doesn't have it. Not all of it worked and I was scratching my head a few times, but I think this film may become more enjoyable with a second viewing. I gave it a 7.